They were the feel-good hit of the summer of 2010, winning 90 games and waging a spirited pennant run until San Francisco finally eliminated them on the last day of the season.
Then they traded All-Star Adrian Gonzalez and ... they'll be better in 2011?
Hard to imagine that until we see where the San Diego runs will come from. And general manager Jed Hoyer isn't necessarily predicting it. But he won't be surprised if it happens.
"I think the idea that we were entering a fire sale period where we were not going to be competitive ... it was born of reaction from the Adrian deal and the uncertainty after that," Hoyer said during a recent conference call. "It is our intent to field a competitive team.
"We can't replace Adrian with one guy. ..."
Perhaps they won't be able to do that even with five key newcomers -- shortstop Jason Bartlett (acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay), free agent second baseman Orlando Hudson, center fielder Cameron Maybin (acquired in a trade with Florida), free agent Brad Hawpe (who will replace Gonzalez at first base) and veteran utilityman Jorge Cantu (the Padres also are taking a flier on starter Aaron Harang).
But, Hoyer said, "I think we are more talented one through 25 than we were a year ago. We have balance and depth."
One of the GM's goals was to improve up the middle, and the Padres think they did that with Maybin, Bartlett and Hudson.
They no longer have a big bopper in the middle of their lineup, so on-base percentage and smart execution will be a vital.
"This is the most humbling sport there is," Hoyer said. "We were fortunate to win 90 games last year. A lot of things went well for us.
"Four other teams in our division had good offseasons. ... It was an interesting offseason. We executed our plan well. At the same time, there's a lot of uncertainty. And a lot of good teams competing against us."